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Science comes to gardening in New York

Looking forward to the long weekend with some good weather thrown in, our attention is somehow drawn towards the garden. Green fingered or not, we keep aside some time to try a spot of gardening.

If a New York based tech start-up has its way, seasons will have nothing to do with gardening. You can grow any of your plants, any time of the year. Named ‘bitponics’, it actually is ‘your personal gardening assistant’. It works on the idea of a cloud-based hydroponics manager.

You would have heard of hydroponics used largely to grow cannabis, but what you may have missed is that it is widely used for farming as well. As the name suggests, hydroponics involves growing plants in water. The absence of soil is made up by adding nutrients to the water. The job of bitponics is to upgrade and automate the hydroponic systems.

The apparently simple technology consists of an electronic box with sensors attached. These sensors or probes are immersed in the reservoir to help in monitoring the temperature, humidity and pH levels of the water. The data gathered is sent wirelessly to the cloud. There are two outlets for lights or pumps, which aid the growth of plants. A growth plan is given by a web app, and you are duly notified by text or email when you need to add nutrients or change the reservoir water.

According to Dr Melissa Brechner, director at the CEA Center for Technology Transfer at Cornell University, ‘Hydroponics is the most-used technology in greenhouse vegetable production the US. If you are looking at it to make some money, try it first as a hobby, then as a business venture’. Brechner finds that it has opened a market for small growers but you may not be able to make a living out of growing lettuce in your backyard greenhouse.



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